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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

UPDATE 2 - Terrorism? FBI Investigating - Trains Hit By Projectiles Just Before Amtrak Train Crash

The FBI is looking into whether there is any link between three different trains that were all apparently hit by objects just a few miles apart, within a few minutes, the night of the deadly Amtrak derailment.
One of those was the Amtrak train that derailed Tuesday night north of Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. Another was another Amtrak train, a southbound Acela train that was apparently hit in a passenger window.
The third was a SEPTA commuter train that had its windshield shattered, and train personnel believed someone had shot at them.


Philadelphia transit police dispatchers can be heard on scanner audio from Tuesday night, warning that a commuter train may have been shot at.
The train was held at the North Philadelphia Train Station that night, after one of its winshields was struck by an object and shattered.
"Transit 1, let those personnel know, the rock put out a text, that that train was shot at, so use caution," a SEPTA Transit Police dispatcher can be heard saying on the scanner audio posted by "All units copy."
A conductor on the Amtrak train that crashed Tuesday night also told investigators that she remembers hearing the train's engineer "say something about his train being struck by something" to a different train's engineer. The windshield of the Amtrak train was also found to be damaged.

Shoebat weighs in:

"Such concentrated shatter holes are not easily formed by flying debris. Train driver windows are 223 Type 1 standard windows which have “minimum requirements for glazing materials in order to protect railroad employees and railroad passengers from injury as a result of objects striking the windows of locomotives”.

The driver’s window are not the same as the side windows of passenger trains which must meet Type II standards. According to federal standards, the driver windows need to have glazing that will withstand a 40 grain .22 caliber bullet travelling at 960 feet per second, or a 24 lb cinderblock travelling at 44 feet per second.

Debris are unlikely to have caused such damage. From the Amtrak driver photo one can see what seems like a possible bullet size hole which may rule out that such “projectile” was a rock.

One could argue that the derailment shattered the Amtrak train’s windshield, but this was rejected by Robert L. Sumwalt, the safety board official who is leading the investigation said “there were concentric circles on the lower left corner of the glass.” Concentrated circles are not caused by a crash trauma, but by a projectile.

The NTSB said that the second Amtrak train (third incident) — this one headed south — that had a window shattered in the same area around the same time. NBC reported that “on southbound Amtrak Acela 2173 and nearing the Philadelphia 30th Street Station around 9:20 p.m. when he was jolted by the sound of an object hitting and shattering the window of his train car.”...

On another recording of scanner calls from Tuesday night posted by, dispatchers can be heard discussing that SEPTA train.
"The train that's standing is the one that's standing by North Philadelphia regional rail," a dispatcher can be heard saying. "An unknown object made contact with that train shattering the windshield. We do not have an update on any injuries because they are prohibited from making any communication with the engineer while he's still on the rail. But it is a train that has had a foreign or unknown object make contact, shattering the windshield the train is going to be standing on the hill."
According to SEPTA, an unknown projectile struck the engineer's window of SEPTA Trenton Line train #769 at around 9:10 p.m. Tuesday. The engineer did not report any injuries. The train was initially held near the North Philadelphia Station based on damage to the train window and later based on the suspension of the line due to the Amtrak derailment.
The 80 passengers were walked off the train and transferred to buses, SEPTA said.
The Amtrak engineer, identified earlier this week as Brandon Bastion, met with National Transportation Safety Board investigators today and he was "extremely cooperative," NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said Friday evening.
Bastion told investigators that the last thing he remembered happening before the crash was ringing the train bell as he passed through the North Philadelphia train stop. He did not mention anything about his alleged radio conversation with a local Philadelphia train engineer.
Sumwalt said that the conversation was brought to light during an interview with one of the Amtrak train's three conductors who was on board at the time of the crash. That conductor told investigators that she overheard the conversation between the two engineers on her portable radio just moments before the train derailed.
"Right after she recalled hearing this conversation between her engineer and the SEPTA engineer, she felt rumbling and her car went over on its side," Sumwalt said.
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2 Trains Hit by Projectiles Moments Before Amtrak 188 Crash

FBI experts to examine Amtrak train's windshield

pkg mclaughlin amtrak train derailment_00000921.jpg

Story highlights

  • FBI will look at derailed train's windshield to see if it was hit by a projectile
  • NTSB official says train engineer didn't tell dispatch his train had been hit by object
  • Two other trains reported being struck by objects in the same vicinity
(CNN)Thousands of commuters who depend on Amtrak's northeast corridor service will once again be able to board a train to get to their destinations beginning Monday. Amtrak says trains will resume service from Philadelphia and New York first thing Monday morning -- not quite one week after the deadly derailment that killed eight and injured more than 200.
"The safety of our passengers and crew remains our No. 1 priority," said Amtrak president and CEO Joe Boardman Sunday, in a written statement. "Our infrastructure repairs have been made with the utmost care and emphasis on infrastructure integrity, including complete compliance with Federal Railroad Administration directives."
The first train will roll out of Philadelphia at 5:53 am and New York City at 5:30 am. Amtrak says all Acela Express, Northeast Regional and other services will also resume.

The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into last Tuesday's accident continues.The NTSB is tapping FBI experts to investigate whether a mark on the windshield of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 was made by a hurled projectile -- or even a bullet -- before it derailed in Philadelphia last week.

"The FBI will be on the scene (Monday) to assist us to identify what that may have been," NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

At least two other trains -- a regional Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority train and an Amtrak Acela -- reported being struck with projectiles in the area near the crash site.
    SEPTA passenger Alfred Price told CNN he heard a loud boom before the train he was riding on came to a stop, and the engineer, who appeared shaken, told passengers something had hit the train. A photo of the front of the SEPTA train shows a circular crack on the windshield.

    Kam Desai was a passenger on the Acela that was about 20 minutes ahead of Train 188 when something struck and cracked the side window on the row behind her. "We heard a very large, really loud slamming or banging sound," Desai said. "It was very alarming to all the passengers, myself included, and my co-worker that was with me."
    Passenger says earlier train struck by object

    Passenger says earlier train struck by object 02:48
    Sumwalt said last week the assistant conductor of the doomed Amtrak train told investigators that she overheard engineer Brandon Bostian say in a radio transmission that their train had been struck by something.
    But Sumwalt seemed to cast doubt on that account Sunday when he told CNN that he had listened to all of the radio disptaches from all trains in that area that night and that "there was nothing, nothing at all from (Bostian) to dispatch to say that his train had been struck. Furthermore we interviewed the SEPTA engineer and he did not recall having any conversation (with Bostian)."
    "Nevertheless," he told CNN's Brianna Keilar, "we have the mark on the windshield of the Amtrak train, so we certainly want to trace that lead down."

    New safety measures ordered

    Meanwhile, Amtrak spent the weekend installing new speed controls on the curved section of track at Frankford Junction where the fatal derailment occurred, the result of an order by the Federal Railroad Administration to install the Automatic Train Control system as an immediate step to improve safety.
    ATC has been in place throughout the Northeast Corridor, the most heavily traveled rail network in the country, for nearly 40 years. The system notifies an engineer if a train is speeding and applies the brakes automatically if the engineer does not respond.
    The system is in place at Frankford Junction for southbound trains, which enter the 50-mph curve from a maximum speed of 110 mph, Amtrak says. But it's not in place for northbound trains, which enter from a maximum speed of 80 mph.
    Amtrak 188 was traveling northbound at 106 mph when it entered the curve, causing it it to careen off the tracks so violently that three of the seven cars that derailed were left standing upright.
    "Had the train been operating at max authorized speed heading into the curve, it would not have come off the tracks," Amtrak wrote.
    As for why the speed controls weren't installed on the northbound tracks in the first place, Amtrak said it came down to the"risk envelope."
    "The rationale behind the decision not to install there (which was made in the 1990s) is that the drop in speed (from 80 to 50) is considered within the risk envelope," Amtrak explained to CNN via email. "Going the other way, the decrease in speed is much greater going into the curve (110 to 50), so that's why ATC was installed there."
    The FRA also instructed Amtrak to assess the risk of all curves on the corridor where the approach speed is significantly higher than curve speed, and to increase speed limit signage throughout the corridor.
    Amtrak said it would immediately implement the measures.
    Acting FRA administrator Sarah Feinberg said that these measures must be taken before Northeast Corridor service is resumed at full capacity, which Amtrak hopes to do by Monday or Tuesday, according to Feinberg.
    Train accelerated from 70 mph to more than 100 mph

    Train accelerated from 70 mph to more than 100 mph 02:31

    NTSB: Amtrak assistant conductor heard engineer say train struck by “something”

    SEPTA Says Commuter Train Hit By Projectile Just Before Amtrak Train Derailed

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A Philadelphia commuter train was hit by a projectile about 20 minutes before an Amtrak train derailed a few miles up the track.
    A spokeswoman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority says there’s no indication that the incident is related to the derailment.
    SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams says they don’t know what the projectile was. It broke the engineer’s window around 9:25 p.m. Tuesday near SEPTA’s North Philadelphia station….(read more)
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    PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) – A Philadelphia commuter train was hit by a projectile about 20 minutes before an Amtrak train derailed a few miles up the track.
    A spokeswoman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority says there’s no indication that the incident is related to the derailment.
    SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams says they don’t know what the projectile was. It broke the engineer’s window around 9:25 p.m. Tuesday near SEPTA’s North Philadelphia station. No injuries were reported.
    Williams says the Trenton-bound commuter train was stopped and the incident was being investigated when the Amtrak derailment happened about 3½ miles away.

    SEPTA Says Commuter Train Hit By Projectile Just Before Amtrak Train Derailed « CBS Philly:

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